Amish Group Known For Unusual Safety Triangles Expected To Add New Safety Enhancement

Leaders of a sizeable Amish community in Ohio have accepted a new safety enhancement on their buggies.

These are not the Swartzentruber Amish living in Ashland County (though that group has been open to buggy safety changes as well).

A second group of Amish living near the city of Ashland are one of the more recognizable communities for their unusual safety-triangle design.

Here’s a photo from my visit to this community in 2011 where you can see the atypical marking:

The Amish here are not as plain as the nearby Swartzentruber people, but they are of a more conservative bent (see this post showing the traditional technology used in their workshops).

Until now they’ve had no electric lighting on their buggies, and they don’t use the conventional orange SMV triangle.

They’ve instead relied on the triangle made of strips of silver reflective tape, as well as additional pieces of reflective material for nighttime visibility.

Here are some more examples of the triangles and their single central red reflector:

ashland-amish-garage

The Ashland Times-Gazette has shared news that the community’s bishops have agreed to encourage adding a blinking light to their carriages, thanks in part to the efforts of Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Carl Richert.

One buggy maker has ordered two hundred lights and expects “‘most of them will be OK with it'” in his settlement of six church districts (though he’s only installed them on his own vehicle so far).

Here is what the new lights look like, in two photos.

The first is mounted on a pole to achieve height on the back of an open carriage. This extension would help improve visibility when hills are involved:

Photo by Tom E. Puskar, Times-Gazette.com

And this is what appears to be the same light on top of a standard closed buggy. You can also see traditional lanterns hanging on either side:

Photo by Tom E. Puskar, Times-Gazette.com

This case shows that some Amish, even the more traditional, will accept enhancements to their well-being when spurred on by the efforts of outside bodies.

It seems this was made possible in part by relationship-building and working with the community and its leaders over an extended period of time.

Richert has worked “for years” to improve buggy visibility in both Amish and Mennonite communities in the area (there is also a small Old Order Mennonite settlement near the town of Shiloh).

The Chief Deputy has told Plain leaders that “if they don’t begin using reflective tape or lights, the Ohio State Legislature may create a requirement where they’d have little say about using them,” the Times-Gazette reports.

He adds that “‘they’re real law-abiding people.'”

It seems a compromise may have been reached here, as the buggy maker says that these lights “are a lot better than previous measures.”

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    11 Comments

    1. Rebecca

      Tunnels, bicyclists, pedestrians, school zones, and fixed warning signals.

      Not sure if this can help, but there are tunnels that have flashing lights approaching their entrances to alert motorists of bicyclists in the tunnel when flashing. Slow moving vehicle alerts between limited sight distance checkpoints might help prevent buggy accidents, too. The cyclist/pedestrian presses a button to activate the blinking lights when entering the zone, and deactivate when exiting the zone. Another idea is to designate certain hours for these areas for reduced speed limits, like school zones.

    2. CJ

      Flashing lights

      Happy they can agree on flashing lights, & hopefully that can prevent accidents, amongst the Amish. They and their beautiful horses are so vulnerable with fast moving traffic.
      The only thing I can say, and maybe a myth rather than truth (I have No stats, to back it up)… is that drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights & crash into police cars & such?! Hopefully this is NOT true!
      Hope these Amish flashing buggy lights don’t cause more accidents with Drunks!

      1. There is something called the “moth effect”, but there is apparently little hard proof of it, due to the difficulty of recording this effect in a controlled setting. However if it exists it would presumably also affect sober drivers:

        https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/81980/NSTSCE_MothEffect_Final.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

    3. Yoder in Ohio

      Glad to see this!

      I’ll support anything that makes the roads safer for buggies AND cars.

    4. Alex Knisely

      Almost like a vaccination against buggy / motor-vehicle accidents

      Or — God helps those who help themselves.

      1. Yoder in Ohio

        Good Point

        And as a SMV triangle-light-and-flasher-equipped-buggy driver, vaccinated individual with vaccinated children, I smiled at this.

    5. Emily

      Hooray

      I’m so happy this compromise was able to be reached! I’m not surprised that this seems to be the product of an extended period of relationship-building and listening on both sides. For Amish people particularly, but also for the rest of us, resistance to change is much stronger when a non-member marches in and starts mandating change. If a trusted friend discusses why a change would be helpful for everyone, it is much easier to listen.

      An aside: I’ve never heard that drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights. I do know, though, that in foggy and snowy (white-out) conditions, if you pull over to the side of the road for safety, you should not use your hazard lights. In those cases, drivers who can’t see the road may drive toward your lights, not realizing you’ve stopped, and cause a crash.

      1. Well put Emily.

        And on the advice about hazard lights when pulled over in white-out conditions, I hadn’t heard much on that before, but I can see the reasoning behind it. Especially since some people will drive in such conditions with their flashers on (which I’m not sure is wise, and in some states is apparently illegal).

    6. J.O.B.

      Car drivers need to change as well.

      It would be nice if law enforcement did a better job going after drivers who speed or drive under the influence.

      If they would crack down harder on bad drivers then it obviously will help make it safer for the Amish.

      If they are gonna pressure the Amish to make these changes, it’s only right and fair that they pressure the car owners to drive safer.

    7. J

      Buggies

      It’s very impressive to see the parts of Amish buggies and vehicles that are a result of negotiation with the surrounding culture. That negotiation has always been an interesting mark of the Amish.